- Who The Hell Is This Guy?
"Easy reading is damn hard writing." -Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),
When I was a kid I loved to read.
Now, we always had plenty of books and magazines, even an encyclopedia at home although we were definitely members in good standing (more or less) of the working class.
And, my mum read me to sleep on a regular basis but for some reason the only book I remember her reading to me was a tattered and battered copy of Little House In the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was the first of a series of books that the hit TV show Little House on the Prairie was based on. I had no idea there was a whole series of books till years later, we only had the first one.
But, I didn't know I loved to read till I was taken to a library, given a library card, and the concept, process, and rules were explained to me. We didn't have a school library at my tiny Catholic grade school -- Saint John the Evangelist -- Sah-side, Pittsburgh, Pencil-vain-i-a. Hey!
Now, I'm not certain what grade I was in when my class was taken to the local branch of the Carnegie Library. It was a sort of low rent field trip. I'm fairly sure it was third grade, which would have been Miss Wright. Fourth grade was run by the fearsome Sister John Edward and I can't picture her taking us anywhere.
Besides, we walked to the library (probably hard for you to believe) as it was only about eight city blocks and we used Carson Street. Carson Street -- the Main street of the Sah-side -- back in the day featured a shot and a beer bar (sometimes more than one) on almost every block. Nowadays, boutiquey watering holes that cater to millennials have replaced them.
Anyways, if it had been Sister J.E. she would've probably killed the first drunk we encountered for grossly violating one of the many, many sins we were taught were on the books. I'm sure I'd remember an on the spot inquisition and summary execution. For the record, a lot of these same sins have since been repealed or dumbed down. Lucky you.
Besides, If it had been fifth grade it would've been Sister Agnita (unaffectionately called Sister Egg Noodle behind her back). She was far too fat to walk that far without a cardiac episode of some sort and I'm sure I'd remember that as well. My money's on third grade.
Ahhh! that smell. Likely a false memory, being that old. More likely, having been blessed by an acquaintance with a library or two since then that had that smell, I'm conflating.
[Doc, you gotta help me, I can't stop conflating!]
In fact, there was one that featured an enormous grandfather clock and a stone fireplace that was actually used on cold winter days. I don't know if it's still there. If it is, the fireplace is likely unused, global warming you know. The comfy chairs are likely gone as well as they would now be occupied by homeless veterans addled by one too many rotations to the fever swamps of the Mideast.
Old wood, old books -- the card catalog. Hundreds of tiny little wooden drawers containing thousands of musty smelling, yellowed little cards. There should be a Glade aerosol (only a dollar at WallyWorld) labeled:
Old Library, the smell of old wood and slowly rotting paper.
Anyways, we all sat at wooden tables, filled out a form, and were issued (temporary) library cards on the spot. A parent or guardian's signature would have to be secured before a permanent card was issued.
However, we were permitted to choose one book and take it home. Truth be told, we were ordered to pick one book and take it home and warned that if we damaged or lost it we would be killed. Catholic grade school at the time was rather like being enrolled in a Scared Straight program but with much better results. Society and our parents were on the same side as our corrections officers.
Now, I don't remember what book I chose. I'm tempted to make up something that sounds really cool, I do have a poetic license, after all. But honesty is the best policy except for when it ain't (that's a different letter). I do remember that I enjoyed it thoroughly. I do remember being captivated by the fact I now had access to literally thousands of books, free and no charge.
I do remember reading what seemed like hundreds of 'em. Reading was much cooler than watching the Beverly Hillbillies or Gilligan's Island. If you don't recognize the antiquated cultural references, spare yourself, don't look them up. Poppa loves you.
Have an OK day.
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